An embarrassment of riches, Day For Night threw down the gauntlet as one of the best festivals around with the announcement of its lineup a few months ago. The 2016 edition showed the potential of being able to attract national and international acts to Houston. This should be the year Day For Night — taking place Friday, December 15, to Sunday, December 17, at the old Barbara Jordan Post Office — leaps into the upper echelon of must-attend events for music fans everywhere.
It's nearly impossible to come up with a concise list of best acts to see with this stacked roster and picking out a perfect schedule is completely subjective. The following is an attempt to highlight ten performances that will be worth the price of admission based on creative peak, hype levels and live performance chops.
(Sunday, 8:40 pm to 10 pm, Green Stage)
No other Day For Night act comes in riding a bigger wave than Dallas, Texas native Annie Clark aka St. Vincent. Her recently released MASSEDUCTION, a career best of excellent records, is currently on best album of the year lists everywhere. This collection of hooky, art-damaged alternative-rock finds her sound and vision perfectly sharpened. In return, her sparse live show — she performs without a band — has been earning huge raves and fits distinctly into the world of Day For Night with gorgeous, synched lighting and video complimenting Clark’s talented guitar playing and charismatic stage presence.
(Sunday, midnight to 2 am, Blue Stage)
It would have been massive if this Thom Yorke’s full band was on the bill, but Radiohead fans will surely be sticking around late on Sunday night (technically early Monday morning) to see the revered front man of one of the most important bands in the world ply his solo work. More cerebral than his day job, Yorke will presumptuously perform a live mix from his albums Eraser (2006), Amok (2013) and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes (2014) alongside Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barri. Yorke very rarely tours solo so this set will be one of the most anticipated of the weekend.
Nine Inch Nails
(Saturday, 9:30 pm to 11 pm, Red Stage)
A 25-year-old catalogue of classic songs (“Head Like A Hole,” “Closer,” “Hand That Feeds” and many more), a coterie of expert musicians and a brilliant way of elevating a show through striking visuals means no one will leave a Nine Inch Nails performance disappointed. Not having a hit record in a few years places the legendary Trent Reznor vehicle further down this list, the band has stayed busy, releasing the Add Violence EP earlier this year. In addition, Reznor garnered acclaim for his soundtrack work with fellow bandmate Atticus Ross on the immersive Ken Burns documentary, The Vietnam War.
(Saturday, 6:50 pm to 7:40 pm, Green Stage)
In terms of sheer star wattage, no other act in mainstream music is blowing up brighter or hotter than New York City rapper Cardi B. Coming from a line of strong female MCs from NYC, re. Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim, Cardi B recently broke Lauryn Hill’s record of most weeks by a solo female rapper on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves).” Probably booked months ago by festival organizers, well before she hit No. 1, this is a real coup for Day For Night and will attract a big crowd.
(Sunday, 5 pm to 6 pm, Red Stage)
Killing it on the festival circuit, Phantogram's singer Sarah Barthel and multi-instrumentalist Josh Carter are slowly working their way up to headlining status due to their forward-thinking and oftentimes exhilarating studio work and a stage presence that has increasingly grown better over the years. After a detour of working with OutKast’s Big Boi in Big Grams, Phantogram returned with the underrated 2016 joint Three, featuring some of the duo’s best music, including the inescapable earworm, “You Don’t Get My High Anymore.” This should be a fiery set.
(Sunday, 8:30 pm to 10 pm, Red Stage)
Raver kids old and young will unite when the French duo Justice takes to the Red Stage on Sunday night. The band first blew up worldwide a decade ago with Cross, an souped up version of electro and rock elements that produced some of the catchiest songs ever heard under the disco ball, including “D.A.N.C.E.” After a few years off, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, who come from a long line of talented French producers in the vein of Daft Punk, returned with the prog-rock meets EDM of Woman, an album with boundary pushing, NSFW videos that should carry over to the live sphere.
(Sunday, 8:40 pm to 9:40 pm, Yellow Stage)
Any fan of modern dance and rap music owe a debt of gratitude to Roni Size, whose 1997 drum-n-bass masterpiece New Forms, pointed the direction towards today’s sounds — most notably the trap and breaks genres — combining sped up hip-hop beats, jazzy breakdowns, slinky bass with memorable rap verses. That Day For Night scored one of the most revered dance music producers for a rare America appearance is a real treat.
(Saturday, 1:50 pm to 2:50 pm, Red Stage)
Trust me, don't sleep on Of Montreal’s Saturday slot. One of the most fun and creative live bands touring right now — think of Flaming Lips on speed and you’re close — the Kevin Barnes-fronted band does it’s Athens, Georgia hometown proud with a performance that may include multiple costume changes, a harem of dancers, a multitude of props, head-to-toe paint and shaving cream, a massive amount of glitter or all of the above. The fact that the band is performing its fantastic album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? from start to finish on its 10th anniversary is even better.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
(Sunday, 5:40 pm to 6:40 pm, Green Stage)
The band most likely to make you faint this weekend. Shrouded in mystery even 20 years after the band began, this Canadian act will be one of the loudest sets of the weekend. Granting very few interviews over the years, Godspeed would rather let the music do the talking, showcasing cascading layers of guitars, booming rhythms, and a visual style that will have folks sparking up in an attempt to take it all in.
(Saturday, 3:20 pm to 4:05 pm, Red Stage)
Perfume Genius aka Mike Hadreas has steadily built up a fanbase through critical acclaim for his last two stellar albums, 2014’s Too Bright and 2017’s No Shape. Combining heart-on-sleeve lyrics with an emotionally resonant indie-rock backdrop (he’s worked with collaborators from PJ Harvey’s band and Portishead), Hadreas combines glamorous visuals and with his distinctly personal worldview in tracks like “Queen,” and “Slip Away.”
Single-day passes to Day For Night are $105 plus fees; two-day passes start at $205 plus fees; two-day passes along with Friday Summit admission start at $295. Tickets and full music schedules are available at www.dayfornight.io.
Watch for our coverage of Day For Night throughout the weekend as CultureMap reports on the festivities.